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By Philip Weiss. This article was first published on Mondoweiss.
John Podesta, 2014. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Browsing the Wikileaks dump of 47,000+ emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta this morning, there are more great revelations about how our mainstream politics really work, when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
In no clear order of importance, let’s have a look. I’m starting with the gossip. I’ll get to the policy position in my headline at the end.
Notice the way Hillary Clinton corrects a foreign policy ad in January that shows her brokering a peace deal and pictures her with Israeli and Palestinian leaders:
One question: the images of Bibi and Abbas w the narrative being the cease fire are off. The images are from our peace efforts not the cease fire. Worried we’ll be criticized. There should be photos from cease fire announcement in Cairo.
It’s that nickname, Bibi, parallel with Abbas. You know who counts. Even Dennis Ross calls Abbas by his informal name, Abu Mazen.
This email sent to the campaign braintrust last year by Haim Saban’s aide links to a Jerusalem Post list of the world’s most influential Jews. Saban is number 6, and pictured with Hillary Clinton. The list includes also Janet Yellen, Jack Lew, and Wendy Sherman. Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson and Malcolm Hoenlein and Ron Lauder are in the top ten too. Saban’s aide comments to the Clinton team: “You are all in good company.”
Earlier this year Saban responds to news of Clinton victory in the Nevada caucuses:
I’m in Israel and just woke up to the news,,,,,, Haleluya!
Politico says today in a report based on the emails that Saban is “Team Clinton’s favorite billionaire.” And here is Saban last night, thanks to Jewish Insider, with Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the fundraiser for the Israeli Defense Forces– which is to say, these men are funding human rights atrocities.
Robert Kraft and Haim Saban, Nov. 2016, from Jewish Insider, at the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) Western Region Gala Dinner 2016 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA.
Back to the leaks. Here’s Stu Eizenstat in March 2015 crowing over the fact that Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement saying that Hillary Clinton is going to restore relations with Israel to a more constructive footing than President Obama, thereby throwing Obama under the bus for his criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu for racism in the recent election.
Dear Huma [Abedin] and Jake [Sullivan], … It seems to it is “mission accomplished”, at least for now. On to Iran! Best wishes, Stu
Eizenstat soon got on the Iran job: positioning Clinton inside the Jewish community by guiding her July 2015 statement against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel, which was used to balance her eventual support for Obama’s Iran deal. In June 2015, Eizenstat urged Jake Sullivan to have Clinton consult a “wide” range of Jewish leaders before condemning BDS, and to call BDS “odious”.
Have Hillary call a select few on the list, for example Malcolm [Hoenlein], Abe Foxman, David Harris, and Jerry Silverman [of the Jewish Federations of North America]…Then issue a statement, mentioning the wide outreach.
Pretty conservative definition of outreach! The point, said Eizenstat, “is to make it a serious effort to get their input.”
A few days later, Eizenstat pressed Amatzia Baram, an Israeli scholar on Iraq and ISIS on Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s foreign policy guru/Rhodes Scholar apparatchik. Writes Eizenstat: “He was consulted extensively by the USG during the Bush Administration.” Like that’s a recommendation? It is to Israel supporters, Bush was very popular in Israel. Sullivan writes back that he would love to see Baram’s article and: “Hopefully we will meet soon!”
More Saban. In February 2015, Politico sends the campaign questions about Bill Clinton’s relationship to Saban. Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, Tina Flournoy quotes Politico’s questions, and answers the second one:
It has been reported that the State Department rejected a consultancy [Bill Clinton] proposed with Saban Capital Group. Is that so? Or was there never a formal objection from State to that arrangement? Did it go forward?*
*Who paid the expenses associated with President Clinton’s travel to Israel in December 2009 to speak at the Saban Forum?*
[Flournoy:] The travel expenses were paid for by Haim Saban.
Later that spring, Saban held a fundraiser at his house with Hillary Clinton; and lots of his friends had foreign policy questions. Podesta promptly got back with Sullivan’s name. Meantime, Saban hooks Podesta up with Isaac Lee, an executive at Univision, a Colombian Jew who studied in Israel,
you should talk to each other.
Later Donald Trump will eject a Univision exec from his press conferences.
Enough networking. Here is substance. Back in October 2015 as the “intifada of knives” broke out in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Clinton team prepared new Talking Points on Israel and Palestine, and an aide communicated them to Podesta. Many of these statements would be reflected in Clinton’s public comments in months to come, especially the refusal to condemn Israeli settlements.
On the outbreak of violence, blame Palestinians:
while the U.S. supports the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, their leaders need to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to peaceful means and avoid incitement.
The State Department had lately condemned an Israeli stabbing attack against Palestinians in Dimona as an act of terrorism. Asked if the campaign goes along with that, it ducked and dodged:
What is most important right now is to do all we can to encourage deescalation and help restore calm. That is what will make a difference in people’s lives.
Here’s the settlement stuff. The Clinton campaign wants no part of the Obama administration’s condemnations of settlements.
Secretary Kerry has been criticized for implying that settlement activity is the cause of the recent violence. He stated at Harvard two days ago that: “What’s happening is that unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years. Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.” Do you agree with that assessment?
• What is most important is that we remember two things. First, violence and terrorism are never the right response. They are unacceptable and must stop.
• Second, our focus now needs to be on helping the Israelis and Palestinians to deescalate the situation and restore calm.
More on the danger of criticizing settlements:
Pitfalls to Avoid
• Do not get into an effort to try to explain the sources of the violence. Instead focus on the importance of all sides taking deescalatory steps to end it.
• Do not put blame on the Israelis for settlements or excessive use of force. But also avoid implying that you are giving them a carte blanche to pursue those policies – especially on settlements.
So the Clinton team has an inkling why those Palestinians might be resorting to knives, but it won’t talk about that. Remember that the Clinton team fought to remove any condemnation of settlements and occupation from the Democratic Party platform last June and July, in what Cornel West said at the time was a pander to AIPAC, the Israel lobby.